Thursday, November 28, 2013

Last day in Rome

Today did not end up as planned. I had every intention of us either going to Tivoli or Orvieto. I thought Tivoli would be nice to see the gardens. We should have done Orvieto. Don't get me wrong though, we still had a great time today.

We left the Termini train station at 9 am content that we were on the proper train. There was a transfer and our first train was delayed. We missed our connection at the Tiburtina station and ended up staying there until half past eleven. We got there shortly before 10. The trip should have taken us about 40-60 minutes. We ended up in a limbo at Tiburtina while missing trains. It wasn't the most pleasant experience. Not to mention the platforms were named funny. They had numbers 1-25 and 1EST and 2EST. The signage was lacking. It also didn't help that pretty much the entire station was under construction. I will end my feelings on the station here as I've not much else to say that's positive for it. 

By 11:33 our train was finally leaving the station for what we hoped was Tivoli. Online, it made it seem like it would be relatively easy to get around. It was not. We wound up going to a restaurant and having lunch before heading back towards the train station. The lesson learned today? Don't always try to do these things on your own. Tours can be useful. A tour of Tivoli would have been much better. On the bright side, lunch was absolutely delicious. Cory had a creme brûlée for desert and I had some gelato. 

We arrived back in Rome at around 3.30 this afternoon and decided to make our way to the Spanish steps. There's a really nice fountain at the bottom of them that I wanted to show my brother. It was under repair. By this point it feels like 50% of what I wanted to show my brother has been under repair. We were able to peek through the fence and get a glimpse of the fountain. It's a shame because this one had a stepping stone to drink from the fountain. We saw a souvenir place and I keep seeing these lovely scarves (and had seen them at the Vatican for cheap the day before) I went to ask for the price out of curiosity. It was much more expensive there so I passed and we made our way back to Termini station. There were more booths and these scarves were for sale there too at a much better price. I may have gotten myself two of them (for the price that the other guy was selling the other ones). It still wasn't as cheap as the Vatican ones but still much cheaper. We figured by the time we pay to take the metro back to the Vatican it will be cheaper to buy the slightly more expensive ones. It worked out in the end. 

We came back to the hostels pretty early tonight compared to every other night and began to pack our things. We have a loaf of bread and a bag of cookies that we want to bring home since we didn't get a chance to eat them (we still have some bananas, grapes, and olives to eat. That's our breakfast tomorrow. Yum. Bleh for olives). We packed our bags and took care to make sure our glass and breakables were safe in our carry-ons. Mostly, some of it I put in my pack, Whatever's been bubble wrapped and earrings. They should survive no problem. I will have to take great care when unpacking tomorrow. 

At around 6ish we ventured forth to seek out dinner. We went back to the Pastecceria in front of our hostel. It was delicious. We ended our meal with Cannolo Sciliano. Which as my brother describes is an eggroll filled with cream and chocolate with a cherry on top. It was delicious as I knew it would be. We basically ended our day by playing Scorpa! once again. Cory kicked my butt tonight. Then again I kicked his the other day so it's fair. 

Tomorrow morning we have to wake up at around 4.30 to be able to catch the 5 am shuttle at the Termini train station. It's only a quick 5-10 minute walk away. It looks relatively easy to find. Hopefully we have a smooth flight with no delays.

I will also post a few photos either tomorrow night or Saturday night for you guys since I haven't been able to secure one of the hostel's computers to do so. :) 

Darker side of Rome

Today we had two tours pre-booked. That's an unusual thing for me when I travel but these tours sounded very interesting so I thought it was worth it. It was. These tours focused a little on the darker side of Rome's history. By darker side I mean the Colosseum where gladiators fought, as well as crypts, and catacombs that can be found throughout Rome. Our day was unintentionally themed. 

This morning we started off with a tour of the Colosseum. This wasn't like any other tour. This one took us to the stage of the Colosseum, underneath it, and to the third floor. Normally you can go to the first and second floor. The guide was rather knowledgeable and gave us tons of information on how the games were held, and what life might have been like back in the day. It was pretty damn cool to stand on the stage of the Colosseum and to look up at where the seats would have been. I was almost able to picture it in my mind. The crowd cheering around you. It must have been something.

After the tour we walked a little in the ancient Roman Forum. I'm not sure what we were looking at but it was all quite lovely. It would have been really neat to see what the city would have been like back then. We also came across Caesar's grave. At least, it looks like his grave. There were flowers and people had thrown some money on it. 

This afternoon we had our Crypts and Catacombs of Rome tour. For some reason I thought the meeting point was at Trevi Fountain so we headed there only to realize once it got there that it was at the Barbarini fountain. Luckily they were only minutes away from each other. We grabbed some pizza at Trevi and made our way back to Barbarini. This tour was amazing. I'd been in the Colosseum before so I wasn't as amazed as I'd have been my first time but this one was great. First we all hopped on a bus and headed towards the ancient Via Appia to see the Domitillan catacombs. This is the largest of the ones nearby and held a few thousand people. In total, between all of the catacombs the tour guides said they held nearly 4 million people. The one we visited has three layers and it's as old as the 1st century A.D. I believe he said they had started to dig them in around the years 150-250 A.D. They were old. The deeper you go the newer the graves. 
These catacombs were forgotten over the years and rediscovered. When they were rediscovered they reused some of the marble that was inside that was being used as grave markers and over the years the graves were cleaned out. The ones we went to you can see some of the remains of what was once the skeletons. It was also a little sad because there were tons of really, really small holes. Meaning those were graves for children and infants. Children had a really high mortality rate back in the day. 

After the catacombs we went to the church of Saint Clemente. For those of you who follow my blog I was there last summer. It's a church built upon another church build upon an ancient Roman house/street. There's now also a stream that goes through the lower levels. The guide took us to the lowest level first and we slowly made our way up. He explained why it was the way it was and how the early Christians coped with life and their religion. That was pretty neat to have a guide to know exactly what things were. 

FInally the tour took us to the crypts of the Capuchin monks. These monks devoted themselves to poverty and helping others. They based their ways off of Saint Francis of Assisi. There was a sad yet impressive museum before the crypt that was built in the last few years. It allows the monks to showcase what they have over the years. Seeing as they devoted themselves to poverty it's not much. I was impressed by the displays and the cases they built for the few artifacts that were there. Plus there were a couple of really neat bibles. One was covered in vellum. It was pocket size and gorgeous. Although they are all in serious need of preservation or restoration.  Anyway, this monks when they moved to this new church that was donated to them had decided to decorate their crypts with the bones of the deceased. When you enter the crypt there's a message in latin "as you are now we once were and as we are now you will be one day". The monks are suppose to contemplate death on a nearly daily basis so that they don't worry about what things will be like for them once they pass away. It's only their earthly body that will leave. For a rather morbid thing, the crypts were rather lovely. They made patterns and designs out of various bones and the symbolic meaning behind some of the patterns is amazing. There were a few hour glasses with wings to symbolize that time flies. Eventually when Italy was united as one the monks were told by the state that they couldn't decorate their crypts anymore because that was just too disturbing. The new state that was Italy wanted to be known for things but not by what they monks were doing in Rome. To this day it's still illegal for the monks to decorate their crypt with human remains and if any of the bones fall they must bury them rather then put them back. There was a few places where I could see that some had fallen. There were also a few bodies that had been mummified. One you could even see remnants of beard. It was pretty neat in a mildly disturbing way. 

All in all, I recommend that tour to anyone going to Rome.

So after our tours we decided to grab some dinner since we were both pretty hungry. We went to a restaurant near the hostel that turned out to be pretty amazing. We both ordered one of the homemade pasta dishes and it was great. We ended our day by inventorying what we had bought had the supermarket. Some of the food might have to come on our carry on for the flight home. Such as bread and star cookies. We'll make sure the fruit gets eaten. We have plenty of grapes, some bananas, and random tiny red berries. 

Tomorrow we have Tivoli on the agenda. It's a small town near Rome. It's famous for it's Roman villas and gardens. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Man Versus Food

I missed yesterday's entry but it's really nothing too exciting. We woke up relatively early and got ready to head out. We had plans to go from Venice to Rome. We showered and signed out of our hostel before we ate. We were able to leave our luggage at the desk as we ate (we had done some groceries the day before) and once we were done breakfast we went out shopping and explored the streets once last time. I picked up some more gorgeous earrings (I now have a few very lovely glass earrings) and we did some more grocery shopping before we decided to go back to the hostel to collect our bags. We picked up some more lunch meats and Cory got more salami (this time it was spicy). We also bought more fresh fruit and some veggies. Once we packed our bags we left for the train station. 

The train ride was pretty uneventful. I fell asleep. Again. Cory read. We did however make sandwiches on this ride with some chicken we picked up and the salami. Some other tourists were looking at us like we were crazy but those sandwiches turned out to be pretty darn tasty. We had also bought these meringue things that we kept seeing everywhere. We would have been better off without them. They did not taste good at all. That was disappointing. But they did form a cave so that was kind of neat. And mine made my tongue turn green so that's always fun. 

Once we arrived in Rome we ventured towards a laundry place that I had gone to last year but they were closed. Instead we went to the hostel, settled in, and then found another laundry place that the hostel recommended. We left our clothes behind to be cleaned and went off in search of dinner. My cousin, Cheryl, had recommended this restaurant so Cory and I went to try it out. It was a little far and out of the way from where we were staying but it was relatively easy to reach. We showed up at 6.30 but they didn't open until 7.30. That was a little disappointing but we figured okay, we'll go kill some time. So we did. We found this little dollar store place and I found my Napoletane cards to play Scorpa! so that was fun. We managed to kill almost 30 minutes there as we pretty much stared at everything in the store. It was a neat store. Now, when we returned the restaurant was open. We weren't sure what we wanted, luckily, the waiter spoke English and explained what everything was on the menu and asked if we wanted an appetizer. He listed what there was and we had no clue what we wanted so he gave us a sampling of everything. We each had our own plate for that and it was delicious. There was some bruschetta, mozzarella balls, and some other things that I don't remember the name but it was good. I ordered some ravioli and I can't remember what Cory ate but it was delicious. It was some kind of meat and salad. He said that the food was possibility some of the best food he's had in his life. When we asked for our bills the waiter (and I think owner) asked if we wanted desert we said no thank-you because we had to rush to get our laundry (the place closed at 10pm and it was already past 8.30) so he gave us a sampling of something that was simply divine. It was some kind of mousse-y custard. It was light and fluffy and not overly sweet. It was just perfect. Absolutely perfect. As we ate the waiter also chatted with us and asked where we were from, what we planned on doing. He grabbed a map and gave us a small, simply itinerary of things to do while in Rome. He then let us keep the map. It was an amazingly good detailed map. All the street names were listed. It has been very, very useful. After dinner we picked up our laundry and basically went to bed shortly after. 

On Tuesday morning we woke up bright and early to be able to head out by 8 am so we could make it to the Vatican before 9 am. There was a little line but it didn't take long. We were able to go through the Vatican museum and see the Sistine Chapel by 11am. I feel the need to mention at this point that it is very, very cold in Rome right now. Obviously not as cold as back home but it's still very cold. 
Anyway, so after we saw the Vatican we went to this little restaurant for lunch because they had a great price for their menu. We went there in part to try and escape from the cold but that failed miserably since the doors to the place was open the entire time. When we left it almost felt warmer outside because it was so cold inside. That gave me a new perspective to what life might have been like in the past when it was a little more difficult to warm up buildings. 
Once we left the restaurant we saw St. Peter's Basilica from the outside. We didn't want to pay 14 euros each to go inside so we made our way to Sant'Angelo's Castle, which was turned into a national museum. We glanced at it from the outside before making our way towards the Pantheon. We did go inside there for a few minutes before we made our way to the Piazza Di Popolo. We were semi-harassed by those guys giving flowers ( I believe I wrote about that on my last trip) and made our way through the plaza to get to the metro station. 

We decided to do the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain tomorrow since our meeting point for one of the tours is at the Trevi fountain and instead took the metro to Piramide to see the random pyramid. It's under repair (as most things seem to be right now) but Cory was able to see the restored top) and the random gate from a castle or fortified wall. We then carried on and went to San Paolo's Basilica. This was the one that glowed when the sun set. We were able to go inside and it was absolutely gorgeous. 

After leaving San Paolo we made our way back to Termini where we did some more grocery shopping. We picked up some more star cookies (they seem to make everything out of this here, cereal, candy bars, cake bars, etc), some more bread, some croissants for breakfast, fruits (strange little red berries, grapes, and bananas), some juice, yogurt, and I found fig jelly. I picked up two containers to bring that home. I love fig jelly and it's so difficult to find. Unless I'm just not looking hard enough. Either way, fig jelly. I'm so excited. Once we accomplished our grocery shopping we went back to the hostel to play some Scorpa and to try and warm up. That worked mildly well. 

After a while of trying to warm up in the hostel we decided to go out for dinner. We went to some shawarma/donair  place since it smelled sooo good. I ordered a large one and really wished I ordered a medium and Cory got a medium. He was nice enough to finish it mine since it was way too big and really spicy. Even he noticed the spice to it. It was quite tasty. After we ate the owner came out with some clementines and offered us one. It was less random than the guy at the ticket booth at the Castle in Naples who offered us a slice of the orange he was eating. Unlike in Naples we accepted the orange this time and it was sooo good. It was just what my mouth needed after eating that spicy food. We were going to attempt the Spanish steps after dinner but since it was too cold we came running back to the hostel instead to try to warm up. That also mildly worked. I'm still frozen but that's life in a hostel. I'm not sure how Cory thought it was too warm to sleep with the blanket when I'm debating on asking for a second blanket to use tonight for when I sleep. I won't because it did eventually warm up last night. I just need to stop being a wimp. 

Tomorrow should be good. We have our tour of the Coloseum planned and the Catacombs of Rome. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My brother's a bird...

First, I'm going to mention that I won't be uploading photos while in Venice. The internet is simply too slow. It took nearly 20 minutes to upload 50% of one image. That's just too much time. Batch uploads will have to wait until Rome. If I remember correctly they have a slightly quicker internet speed. 

Now if I remember correctly I left off at the train ride... We arrived in Venice pretty early in the afternoon, however seeing as the sun starts to set at around 4 it didn't feel like it. By the time we settled into our new dorm it was starting to get dark but that didn't stop us from venturing forth into the world. 

Our first impression of Venice? This city is absolutely breath-taking and gorgeous. It's just amazing to see the streets as rivers. There are no cars or vehicles of any kind on the streets here. It makes the town very quiet but in a good way. We went from one extreme to the other between Napoli and here. In Napoli cars constantly honked to get by and over here you can hear the water moving in the streets. It's just so.... Wow. We found our hostel with relative ease (after crossing a wrong bridge first and quickly realizing our mistake we turned around and tried again). The hostel is really, really nice. They have real beds instead of bunk beds in the rooms which is a nice treat for a hostel. I'm not too fussy for the pillows but beggars can't be choosers. I put some clothing under it and it works well enough. When we walk out of our hostel there's what looks like a church in front of it and to the right there's one of the water roads. It's really cool. 

After settling in Cory and I went out for food and to familiarizing ourselves with the streets a little first. We walked back down the Main Street and bought some fresh fruit. A bunch of grapes and two oranges. We're saving the oranges for breakfast tomorrow but we devoured the grapes. They were the biggest, juicest, bestest tasting grapes we have ever had. They were so sweet it was like biting into delicious grape juice every time. Those went rather quickly and before we knew it we were searching for a restaurant for dinner. We found this little pizzeria and went there. The pizza was better in Napoli. That is also judging by the two places we went there and the one place we went here. The pizza was more like what we're used to at home fused with what it was like in Napoli. After dinner we got lost while trying to find the Rialto Bridge. We went for dinner in the least touristy area of town so it was filled with tiny winding streets and water roads. We would walk a bit and then have to turn around because of the water road. We did eventually find the bridge. On our way back we stopped for a tiny bit of gelato. I tried a different flavor, as did Cory. I preferred my strawberry one from Napoli.  Once we were done the gelato we decided to head back and crash for the evening. 

We woke up bright and early on Saturday with the intention of going to Murano for the morning but it was raining. A lot. Instead we went to Saint Mark's Square to see the Basilica, the clock tower, and Dodge's Palace. The Basilica was... it was just as Cory put it earlier today "there is no single word in the English language that can describe how beautiful and breath taking this building is" and it's true. The ceiling was covered in mosaic designs. It glowed golden and there were various colors with religious images around. It was a sight to see for sure. Definitely worth the entrance fee. We were also able to go onto the balcony that faces the square and clock tower. We took some nice pictures and asked a Spanish couple to take a picture of the two of us up there. (Now there's proof we were both in Venice together) After simply staring out into the wonders that is the city we decided to go up the clock tower. It's a total of 100 meters and there's an elevator that takes you up 60 meters. It was really, really cold up there and very windy but it was sooo worth it. We were able to see across the entire city from that viewpoint. It was just spectacular. I thought the view from the Empire State Building was nice this was something else with equal, if not, more beauty. 

We did try to go into Dodge's Palace but the price was too much and they had a sign saying that there was a bunch of areas that was closed for maintenance. It didn't seem worth the amount to see a tiny fraction of it. Maybe next time I'm in Venice. The outside of the building is wonderful and quite lovely to see it. 

We were also there in Saint Marks Square during Aqua Alta, otherwise known in English as High Tide. We noticed the high tide first thing in the morning when we left our hostel since the water level had gone up about 2 feet in the road (but there was still dry land to walk on) and as we walked through some of the familiar streets we noticed that the water was higher. When we approached Saint Marks Square we went out for breakfast first (which was amazing. Best pastry. Ever. and it had Nutella. Who knew anything with nutella could taste so wonderfully amazing) Anyway, we saw these dorky boot covers that are popular with tourists and thought "Sure, why not?" so we each bought one, put them on and touristed up. In between the sights we waded through the flooded square with our boot covers which are hit or miss. Cory's kept his feet relatively dry and mine did at first until they stopped working. I had soaking wet feet for the rest of the day (which is a little funny that the person coming down with the cold got the wet feet - it's all good, my shoes are almost dry now). We also decided that those ponchos were just fail so we bought cheap umbrellas. Mine broke with the sheer force of the wind. There goes that. I'm just going to bundle up and hope for the best tomorrow. :) After all, it's just water. It dries up. Right?

So after the fun events of Saint Marks Square and the flooding we ventured forth for lunch. We found this upper class yet still relatively cheap restaurant and had lunch there. This was in part to escape the rain but mostly because we were hungry. I had 4 cheese gnocci and Cory had a seafood spaghetti. He had mussels/oysters and squid for the first time today in this dish and he said he loved it. They even left the shells on for the mussles/oysters so that was an experience for him. We had desert there too. Cory had tiramisu and I had some apple cake. It reminded me of a German apple cake. It was tasty. We also had some bruschetta as an appetizer. It was sooo good. Chunks of garlic were mixed in with the tomatos. Absolutely delicious. After lunch the water was nice enough to point out where we were on the map (we'd walked way further than we thought) and gave us directions on how to get back to Rialto. From there we easily made it back to the hostel where we dried off and I taught Cory how to play Scorpa! (I started to teach him in the restaurant) we played that for a while before decided to venture out once more for food. 

For dinner we had a wide variety of random stuff. We went to a local grocery store and picked up some stuff. We got a loaf of bread, some nutella, sliced chicken, salami, banana yogurt, mixed berries, and some chocolate chip muffin things, a bag of lettuce, Oh, and disposable mini spoons. We saved some of the muffins for breakfast and the nutella is for breakfast too with those oranges. But we did have the yogurt. Best yogurt ever. So creamy and delicious. The sandwiches were decent, considering there was no butter or mayo or anything. Just the bread, meat, and lettuce. Which the bread is so tiny it's adorable, and thin. It's incredibly, wonderfully thing. Just how bread oughta be. Supper was good for what it was. An assortment of random foods brought together by our hunger. 

Tomorrow will we attempt to do Murano. Rain or shine. We also have our Gondola tour booked. I hope it's not raining for that. 

As I'm getting ready to post this I realize that I forgot why the title is named the way it is... I swear it was Cory's idea. We were looking at some shops on the way to dinner on Friday and with one of them we wanted to peer into the shop. The glass was so clean it looked like there was no glass and Cory smacked his head into it. Just like a bird does when it flies into a window. The shop keeper poked her head around and looked at us concerned as Cory worked on cleaning the window. We apologized and everyone laughed about it. I have to admit that had Cory not done that with the glass I might have done that instead. It was freaky clean glass. 

Friday, November 22, 2013


I was planning on us only having to do laundry once while we were away but the air is way too humid for us to hang dry our clothing (unfortunately). I asked Giovanni if there was a place to do laundry nearby and there is! It's just a few short blocks away. All we have to do is drop it off and pick it up later. This should make us be good until Rome when we'll have to do laundry again but that's fine. 

Last night after lounging around the hostel for a bit (and discovering that there is a massage chair here that makes music-like noise - it creates a sort of tempo and it almost sounds musical) we decided to venture out to get some gelato! It was absolutely fantastically delicious. Cory ordered Coconut. He said that it was possibly the best coconut tasting thing he'd ever had. There was shaved coconut in there and actual chunks of coconut. I tried a little spoon and it was soooo good. I ordered strawberry which was also equally amazing. It had a nice rich and intense flavor without being overly sweet. It was perfect. Gelato is delicious. We will grab some in each city to compare. I'm sure it's all good. 

Now, on the way to get some gelato we took a different route. While glancing at the streets and architecture in awe we were able to spot some of the ancient roman theatre! It was part of the one that we saw on our tour. It's still so fascinating how everything is built onto and against each other. If one building were to go it seems like everything would come tumbling down afterwards. The city itself is like it's own living organism, with every part depending on the other to keep itself in good shape. 

The mystery of that super loud sound the night in Rome has been solved. I heard it again and this time Cory heard it too. It was a firecracker. It still sounded like an explosion but it was just a firecracker. 

Cory and I started the day by going to a little cafe to grab some breakfast. It cost us about 2.20 euros each which was really nice and inexpensive and it was delicious. It was a variety of croissant/pastry thing with a coffee for Cory (which is really an expresso) and a juice type drink for me. After we ate we went to drop off our laundry and then follow the route that Giovanni had highlighted for us when we arrived. It was a suggested route, filled with some of the city's best sights in a well used street. 

Our first stop on the trip was the Duomo. This is a cathedral that was completed in the 14th century. It was absolutely breath taking. There was one room that glowed when the full sun hit the window near the top. You could see the bright rays flow out of the room. Inside, on the ceiling, it's painted to look like heaven is opening up for you. The sheer size and appearance of this cathedral is difficult to properly explain. We were able to go to part of the crypt as well. Cory left an offering in there before we went back upstairs to see the other parts of the cathedral. There was an absolutely gorgeous mosaic. The workmanship on it must have taken forever. 

We following the path after the Duomo and eventually made our way to the marina and Castle Nuovo. This castle was started to be built in 1279. Parts of it was blocked off but we were still able to get a wonderful view of the Bay of Naples and explored some of it. The chapel was still there but it was converted to a museum, like most of the castle. 

After Castle Nuovo we decided to do the hop on, hop off bus tour. This tour took us around the entire city, giving us a good look at the architecture styles, some of the culture (when it comes to driving and how people respond to it). Plus there was some spectacular views. One was Vesuvius looming over the Bay of Naples. We ended our tour near the Duomo so we could easily walk to the laudromat to pick up our clothing and drop it off at the hostel. 

We had intended to drop off our clothing and then go out for dinner but we ran into Rocky. We met him the day we arrived and went to Pompeii with him. The three of us are becoming friends. Rocky asked what we were up to and then asked if we wanted to go to the marina with him. I wanted to go upstairs to drop off clothing and find food. I could tell Cory wanted to go so I told them both to go have fun. They went out late-ish last night for food as well. I'm glad they're getting along. After they started on their way to the marina I did the trek upstairs with the laundry. When I came into the hostel Giovanni asked if I was hungry. He had started to cook some dinner and asked if I wanted to join them. I agreed since I was quite hungry. Dinner wasn't until almost 8pm, kind of unfortunate since I was so hungry and it was still so early. 

Dinner was similar to the other day. There was a total of 2 courses. First there was a spicy pasta with pumpkin and next was potatoes with sausage. It was delicious. There was also a good 13 of us at the table for dinner. Everyone sat together at the table and chatted like we were one big happy family. It was awesome. Josh and I were the only ones who couldn't really handle spicy foods so we had a lovely symphony of sniffles going on while we ate. I felt bad for the people between us as we struggled to eat. The food was good. 

After dinner, Melissah taught us how to play SCORPA!!! It's a traditional Neopolitan card game that uses a special deck of cards. I unfortunately could not locate the cards on the way to the train this morning but it can be played with a tarot deck or an ordinary deck of cards. It's just not as fun. Josh, Melissah, Arne, Jocelyn, and myself played while the others chilled and watched videos. (from Rocky's laptop). It was good times. It was also kind of sad since most of us were moving on to new locations on Friday. 

Cory and I woke up relatively early to catch the train to Roma and then from there to Venezia. Rocky joined us on the train to Roma. We got to the station a few minutes before the train could leave so I was not able to pick up the cards because of that. The ride to Roma was awkward. The guy in front of me kept rubbing my legs with his. He reminded me of the "me scusa" guy from Eurotrip. Our train from Roma to Venezia wasn't bad either. 

It's unfortunately getting late so I will continue this post tomorrow with the events of the day. 

Alive in Venice

Just a quick note to let you guys know that we arrived in Venice safely. I will post more later and it looks like there is a usable desktop computer.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Adventures in Naples

I should start by saying that unfortunately while we're in Naples I won't be able to upload any photos. Hopefully there will be a computer in Venice for me to do so and if not then it'll have to wait until Rome. Our plan is to leave for Venice on Friday morning and then back to Rome for a few days on Monday before we fly home.

Cory and I went to Pompeii today with some new friends that we met in the hostel (as mentioned yesterday). We left relatively early in the morning with plans to visit Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Vesuvius. That did not happen. Vesuvius was closed because of the weather and by the time we got to Herculaneum it was closed (it closes at 5 but last admittance was at 3:30. We arrived at 3:40)

We grabbed a croissant at the train station on our way to the Circumvesuviana (the train line we needed to take to reach the excavations). It was absolutely delicious. There were little chunks of almonds on it and some kind of filling. So good. And it was still warm from the oven so it was really, really fresh too. 

The train ride was pretty uneventful. We all sat together and chatted but it did help the time go by a little faster. 

Pompeii was as spectacular as the last time I was there. They moved around a few things (notably the castings of the bodies). We also managed to get quite lost in the city. First to find those castings and second to get out. Turns out the exit was near the entrance all along... We meandered around the city, to simply explore it and to enjoy it. We did get rained on for a while. Luckily we were all prepared. Cory and I had our awesome matching yellow ponchos (we realized then that an umbrella would have been better.) and everyone else had either a rain jacket or an umbrella. We were able to carry on with our exploration despite the rain.

When we eventually left the city we decided that lunch was a great idea but we would wait until we reached Ercolano. We found that same pizza place that I went to last summer with that older couple. The pizza was still pretty tasty but the one we went to last night was even better. 

After lunch we left to go to Herculaneum thinking that we had until at least 4 to get in but turns out we didn't. We did see the site from nearby and could peer into what was there. Since we couldn't do Vesuvius either I told Cory that this just meant he would have to return to Italy some day when it was summer so there would be longer hours and better weather. 

The trip back to town was pretty uneventful. We met a couple from L.A. on the subway, helped them get to where they wanted to be (same stop as us). Now we're just chilling in the hostel. Most of the people we've met are around Cory's age so that's been pretty awesome. He seems to get along pretty well with them. Which is even more awesome. 

I'm typing this as we're chilling at the hostel, just relaxing from our day. We're all pretty exhausted. I'm hoping to find the energy to go out again later but I do need some recovery time.

Tomorrow we will do our best to explore what Naples has to offer. It stills looks like an incredible city and after hearing Giovani last night there's so much more to the city than I knew last time. I also hope that the castle is open to visit. Cory needs to visit a castle.

Also, I feel the need to mention that I was a little more than weary with using the bed here. Even though it's clearly a sturdier bed than the last one there's a little something in the back of my mind whispering "....what if...". I joked with Cory that I'll need to see a shrink when I get back due to a fear of beds breaking. 

Settling into Naples

We got a little turned around while searching for Giovanni's Home. That is the name of the hostel that we're staying at in Naples. Luckily Giovanni was looking out for us from his balcony and called out to let us know where the entrance was to his place. Had he not done that we would have walked right past it completely lost. The hostel is in what looks like an apartment building filled with locals. Similar to the last place I stayed at, only this one feels a little more cozy. Although there's no elevator so going to the third floor (which is technically the 4th) is tiring. It's a little depressing that I'm winded by the time we get up the stairs but Cory's still got energy and is good to go. Go him for being in such great shape. 

When we arrived Giovanni offered us glasses of water and got us to sit while he processed our information. There's little cards that hostels have to fill in with our passport information so they register us with the local police in case anything should ever happen. I had a little scare and had trouble finding my passport. It was hidden at the bottom of my purse and I thought I had hidden it in my main pack so that was fun. I did eventually find it and everything's good. It was just a tad embarrassing to search through so much stuff in front of the hostel owner. 

Giovanni offered to make lunch for us and Cory ended up helping him with it. They made pasta carbonara which was absolutely delicious and by the sounds of it super easy to do. We ate lunch with some of the other travellers. One had been here a few days, he's a German studying Italian. I can't recall his name. Two girls from Philly, one of them has had some of the worst luck imaginable on this trip. Her phone was stolen in Rome and her wallet was stolen in Naples on her way in. Poor girl, she's thinking of going home instead of finishing her trip. Another is from Washington. We're supposed to go see Vesuvius, Ercolano, and Pompeii with him tomorrow. He's never been and wants to see it. Cory and I are going anyway so why not have an extra body with us? Lunch itself was really fun. Giovanni banned all electronics and books and whatever else could distract us and had us all seat together at the same table so we could simply chat. It was surprising, since we all thought he was kidding and quickly realized he wasn't. It was nice and kind of family-like. A whole group of strangers talking, laughing, and sharing stories together. Good times. 

After lunch Giovanni sat us all down at his office/desk/front reception and went over the city map. He went over sights to see, how to get to them, what's worth it, where not to go and so on. He even recommended this great (and inexpensive) pizzeria. The pizza there was amazing.

Once we received the map and some general information Cory and I headed out to see the city. We did the Napoli Subetteranea tour which was neat since they switched some things around from last time I did it. When the tour was over we went for that delicious pizza before slowly strolling back to the hostel to relax before bed. 

As I started to write this last night, the others that we met came in (they too had gone out for pizza and had wanted to go on the tour but they still had to register into the hostel first so they missed it and will do it later). Some of the girls asked if it was okay to join us on our trip today. We're going to attempt to see Ercolano before climbing Vesuvius and then going to Pompeii. All in one day since there's so much to see in Naples itself. We'll be a largish group today, it'll be really neat. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Pasta Parties, Broken Beds, and Explosions.

We have at this point safely arrived in Naples. Yesterday we spent the night in Rome. 

For those who aren't aware we had a flight to Frankfurt, Germany and from there transferred to a flight to Rome, Italy. Our flight to Frankfurt was pretty normal. There wasn't anything unusual about it except that I ate way too much before the flight so that was a little unfortunate. There was also a group of other travellers who basically acted like teens for most of the flight. It was cute/funny, and frustrating at the same time seeing as they should know better but they were clearly just having fun. By older I mean 60+. 

We were in Frankfurt for a few hours which went by relatively quickly. My dad may have grabbed a giant pretzel in New York with me in August but Cory got a giant pretzel in Germany and it looked glorious. On the way back I may grab one (I was still feeling off from my meal in Ottawa). There was a little bakery in the airport where they were making the preztels among other goodies, it smelled and looked delicious! They also gave us a 2 euro coin to use at one of the other gift shops. We didn't spend them because it was pretty expensive for most things in that airport but everything there looked super classy. One of the main plaza things in the airport was covered in those little white christmas lights but it didn't look Christmas-y. It looked up-scale and nice. 

We arrived in Rome in the early afternoon. There was a bit of haggling to actually get into Rome. I wanted to take the Express train but the lady at the desk selling the tickets insisted that we used the airport transfer bus instead. We ended up doing that which I'm glad because it gave Cory a better sense of the place. The "bus" was really a mini-van and the other passengers were a young couple from South Africa. They seemed quite nice but we weren't too talkative throughout the drive. I think everyone was more focused on the sights. I also decided that I would never drive a vehicle in Rome. Ever. It's just insane. I never really noticed to what extent until this trip. My other one it looked crazy but since I was never actually in a vehicle that way I never got the full experience. It's similar to China in the sense that the rules of the road seem to be non-existant.

We were at the hostel and settling in by about 3 pm which really isn't that bad. Once we settled in it was food time. There's this lovely little bakery/cafe/restaurant thingy across the street from the hostel that I fell in love with last time (great food, excellent deserts) so we went there. Cory ordered a lasagna and I had some tortellini. They were both delicious. My first time I ordered tortellini there it came with a rose sauce, yesterday it was alfredo and there were peas added in. We also had a milkshake thing to go with it. T'was good.

After lunch we explored. We took the subway to Circo Massimo and walked along what was once the circo massimo to get to the bocca della verita (mouth of truth). Those who have read my blog on previous trips might already know the legend involving this. It's said that if you put your hand in its mouth and tell a lie the stone face will come to life and eat your hand off! This is my third time in Rome and I finally managed to get there when it was still open! My first trip I couldn't even find it, the second one by the time I found it, it was closed. I was so thrilled to see that it was open. Cory took my picture in front of it but he didn't want one of him. Afterwards we went into the church that's attached to it. It was a really nice place. For a euro we were allowed into the crypt which was a little disappointing once we went down but it was still neat. Cory found a whole in the wall where he was able to sit his entire arm into it and there was still space. I wonder where it would lead to? 

Once we left the church across the street was the Temple of Vesta and some other temple that was under restoration last time I was here. I don't know what it was but it was really nice. We couldn't go into either place so we carried on and walked along the other side of the Circo Massimo and next to the Palatine. It was only 5 something in the afternoon but it was getting really dark. It felt like it should have been 7 or 8 at night. We walked alongside the Palatine and found our way (mostly from my memory, there was a little map checking to see if I remember correctly) to the Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum. It was a little after 6 when we arrived and it was so gorgeous! Part of the arch and the colosseum are being restored right now which is disappointing but understandable. If they don't do this these monuments won't last. 

We took the subway back to the hostel from the Colosseum and went upstairs for a bit. In the lobby the guy who worked there announced that in the cafe downstairs there was a pasta party in the cafe downstairs. You buy a drink and get free pasta! By drink he didn't mean alcohol, just any drink. It could be as low as 3 euros. We were getting hungry so it only made sense for us to go. Admittedly we thought it was 3 euro pasta, we discovered afterwards that it's you buy a dink to get free pasta. That was still a great deal. Cory had a delicious beer (even I liked the taste, it was Perroni) it had an aftertaste that reminded me of bread. Cory called it "Liquid Bread" before I tried it. I ordered what they called a Florida. It was orange juice and grenadine. Delicious. The pasta was clearly homemade since the noodles were different sizes. It had some pieces of meat, I think sausage, maybe ground beef. Sounded like the guy said sausage but it looked like beef. Anyway, there was that and some red sauce and it was better tasting than lunch. It was some of the best pasta ever. 

After dinner we showered and got ready for bed. Cory was on the top bunk and I got the bottom bunk. I had some difficulty with my bed earlier in the day since one of the boards under my mattress kept falling out every time I sat on it. When I went to lie down four boards fell so I jumped out of bed before more damage was done. Cory was kind enough to jump out of bed and help me fix the boards. I then grabbed the mattress and slept on the floor. It wasn't worth trying to fix again. I also didn't feel like going down to the lobby to complain because really, it's a hostel. It happens. Before bed (as we were getting ready) we met our roommates. They were all Brazilian and seemed very nice. They were all travelling alone but two of them were both going to Paris so they decided to travel together. Those two spoke pretty good English and the third lady spoke some Italian, English, and Spanish but it was pretty poor. We were able to communicate well enough by repeating words slowly and using synonyms in Italian, English, Spanish, and Portuguese. It was really fun.

Cory didn't hear it but at some point in the middle of the night there was a really loud noise. I'm not sure if it was an explosion or just really, really loud thunder. The younger girl heard it too but nobody else seemed to have heard it. Cory heard loud rumbling/banging noises coming from outside but not the thunder/explosion thing. The younger girl thought it was an explosion nearby. I haven't figured out what it was and I doubt I will but the city seemed intact and there hasn't been any breaking news stories. I'm going to say that it was just really, really loud thunder. Since there was some thunder in the distance a little later. 

On Tuesday morning we were up and out of bed by 8 to grab breakfast. For 2.50 euros (paid at the hostel) you got a cappuccino, a juice, and a croissant. We did that, it was pretty tasty. We couldn't quite identify the juice though... after breakfast we left for Naples. 

The walk to the train station from our hostel takes maybe 5 minutes. We bought tickets for the 9:40 train to Naples. We opted for the 2 hour train rather than the express 1 hour train since we'll see a little more of the countryside. The express one takes a slightly different route. We had some extra time to spare since our train was leaving a little later now. We went downstairs to the Conad drugstore and got some water. I grabbed some cookies for a snack. We explored some kid toy store at the train station which was pretty awesome. There was a build your own clock, some tablets, really cute baby toys, among many other things. When we got out of the store we went back upstairs to the platforms and boarded our train.